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Magic Mike Loves the Ladies

And Magic Mike XXL is emphatically for the ladies, as well as for men who like men. In fact, the guys’ road trip takes them down a veritable checklist of demographics underserved by the last movie, as they hit a gay bar, a black pleasure palace, and a middle-aged gabfest in quick succession.  Throughout, women of all shapes, ages, sizes, and colors are indulged without comment or condescension. In the beautiful utopia that is Magic Mike XXL, it’s taken for granted that every woman deserves gratification.

It’s shameless pandering, sure, but it’s a delight. In an industry that typically bends over backwards to please the young-straight-white-male demo, it feels radical to see a film go out of its way to service everybody else. And where Fifty Shades of Grey was women crafting fantasies for other women, Magic Mike XXL is men eagerly subordinating themselves to female desire.

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XXL and the Sheer Joy of Movement

And then, of course, there’s the dancing. As with the first Magic MikeXXL is a celebration of movement — not just as sex, but as art. While director Gregory Jacobs‘ eye for action isn’t quite as sharp as Steven Soderbergh‘s, he takes a similar approach of stepping back and letting the performers do their thing. Contrast that to something like Furious 7, which cast Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa only to bury their talents under quick cuts and frantic camerawork.

Besides, Jacobs more than makes up for that slight dip in quality with an uptick in quantity. There are more dance solos than I cared to count. Highlights include the first number, in which Mike, alone in his workshop, finds himself unable to resist the siren call of Ginuwine’s “Pony”; an impromptu gas stop performance by Richie, on a dare from his friends; and just about every move Malik makes. My only complaint on this front — my only major complaint about this movie, really — is that XXL forgoes the big group numbers that were a staple of the last film.

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Magic Mike Is the Perfect Summer Movie

That’s not to say Magic Mike XXL is an otherwise perfect movie. The narrative structure is obvious and clunky. Plot points are raised and then quickly forgotten. Characterization rarely goes beyond surface-level tropes. The dialogue is downright lazy — at one point late in the film, Mike approaches Tarzan for a heart-to-heart because “we haven’t had our moment yet.” As a love interest, Amber Heard makes for only the tiniest improvement over the perpetually dour Cody Horn. And there’s never, ever a good sense as to why any of this is happening.

But goddamnit, it’s fun. Magic Mike XXL moves along at a brisk clip, leaning into all the absurdities of its premise and giggling all the way. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an afternoon spent drinking beer on the beach. Everyone’s having a good time, and it seems almost boorish to complain that the Coronas are getting warm, or that Cheetos don’t make for a healthy lunch. There’s not a lot of substance to be found in Magic Mike XXL, but there doesn’t need to be. Sometimes, pure pleasure is its own reward.

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